Category Archives: painting

Bob Dylan: Wtf?

Oh Bob, breakin’ my heart. I can forgive a lot of things, snagging from folk songs, appropriating other works…for the greater good of music (sometimes). But really? Copying copyright photographs and saying it was based on actual travels? Really. The proof is again, in the pictures.

Left: Dylan’s painting from “Asia Series;” Right: photograph by Dmitri Kessel taken for LIFE magazine

You’re a legend- there was no need to copy photos…you could have done ANYTHING on the canvas and Gagosian would have sold it. But no. We get these ripped off/ craptastic paintings that will still sell for more than I’ll ever be worth. I just have to say, what a disappointment, I mean I shouldn’t be- everyone plunders each other but this is just so damn blatant and bad, it’s ridiculous. It’s not like Dylan is making a masterpiece from the photos, he’s degraded great photos into boring, clumsy painting. Gagosian probably would not have even sneezed in the direction of these paintings if they’d been made by anyone else. While we’re on the subject of Gagosian, wtf to you too?! How could you miss this issue? Do you do any kind of background at all? According to Artinfo, earlier this year French Photographer Patrick Cariou sued and won against Richard Prince and Gagosian. Prince was accused of copying 41 of Carious’ photographs for his 2007 Gagosian show.

This raises an interesting question about appropriation and power in the art world right now. How far is too far when ‘appropriating’? With the plethora of internet sources and media influences how can you know if an idea is really yours anymore? Artists have been appropriating since the beginning, it’s just what happens- the more famous guy will hear something/ see something catchy and it will be attributed to him because he’s famous, no matter if someone came up with it first. But the interesting problem now with the internet is the availability of information, lines of influence and sources can become more visible (providing one knows where to start)- the internet also is a way for the underdog to get credit/ make their voice heard, at least in some way.

Some have said this is could be part of the art…something greater and more thought provoking could be going on. That Dylan could be exploring the concept of originality itself. Or the impact of celebrity on an audience’s interpretation. Doubtful. If it was part of the message then Gagosian would be spilling because they probably don’t want another copyright issue on their hands. In addition, the whole originality and appropriation game is an old hat anyway, from Duchamp’s Readymade Fountain (1917) to Sherrie Levine’s own Fountain (1991).

Will Gagosian go through with selling Dylan’s paintings? Yes. Will they still sell for a stupid amount of money? Yes. But hopefully this will make it harder for people to get away with blatant plagiarism, as well as get Gagosian to actually research the artists they are representing and maybe, just maybe, quit trying to make a quick buck off of marketing celebrity works.

P.S. Bob, stick to music.

An update to this issue can be found here. Artinfo’s Judith Dobrzynski reports that Dylan may have paid for the copyright licensing to some of the photographs he used in the Asia Series. Whether or not it was before or after the fact is not clear, however.

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Art & Headlines: Wall Street Protest

The Occupy Wall Street Movement began Saturday September 17th with about 5,000 protesters (read more here). As of now there is an ongoing contingent of protesters that continue to occupy the plaza and parks in the surrounding area and are gunning for the long haul. While I do support the protest as a substantial first step for us to wake up to our situation, my biggest problem is with the media blackout. The U.S media has completely blocked out this protest and is making it quite evident whose side they are on, nobody wants to bite the hand that feeds them- which is exactly the problem. We have the right to protest but the convenient loophole is to just ignore it and it will go away. But this shouldn’t go away, if significant change is to happen, then the people must unite- they have to demand it. The wealth disparity and the people’s lack of power is not new, but that does not mean it should continue.

So today I thought I’d connect the Wall Street protest to various artworks that deal with the persistent wealth gap and with the desire to revolutionize our position.

Niki de Saint Phalle, Tirs 1960s; mixed media

1968 Poster from the Paris Protests

Victor Burgin, Possession, 1976

Erwin Wurm, Fat Convertable, 2005; mixed media


Wtf is good art?

What is a great work of art? How do you judge a work of art?

You stand in front of a painting/ sculpture/ whatever and…blank. What I am I supposed to say? It’s a- blob? “I like the texture…and the shapes…?” Who decides what’s great and what’s not anyway?

I just got back from some gallery openings (quite the spectacle of seeing and being seen). I was asked over and over “what is this about” or “what do you think”? I’ve looked at a lot of art, probably not enough though- but I’d like to level the playing field for everyone and maybe make some people more comfortable with what they have to say about art.

So basically, right now there are two schools of thought and two modes of art making/ theory, the postmodern and the formalist/ modernist. These are competing camps that are completely blurred- especially because scholars love to stick artists and works in categories that the artist doesn’t necessarily agree with.

Postmodernism is all about context, its about the critique of socio-political outlooks- all of our realities are different and relative to our individual situation. This philosophy is extremely diverse and envelope many discourses like gender studies, racial studies, stereotypes, etc. It can take many different forms, in many cases, it does not even ‘look’ like art, it can be documents, text, cooking, etc. Obviously it all can’t be covered in a blog post.

Modernism or formalism is considered a more ‘conservative’ outlook… regardless, the formalist believes that a work must explore the boundaries of its medium, it has to search for the fundamental properties of the medium in order to get to the essence of what painting (insert medium) is.

To explain this better, I’ll use a metaphor of games. Games have boundaries or rules, without the rules there is no game. Take freeze tag. Ok so the rules are if you get tagged you have to freeze, and then somebody else has to come along and tag you and then you get to run around again. So what if you take freeze tag and combine it with hide and seek and maybe monopoly too…the rules of the game get blurred. If you keep adding games in, it turns out there are no rules and its just a bunch of kids running around hiding, freezing and throwing monopoly pieces at you, the viewer, asking wtf. The point is, we need boundaries. We need limits to art in what is and is not art. Because if there is no rules to the game, there is no game. If art can be anything, then it is nothing.

A great work of art stops you. When you look at the work it holds you, you may not know why at first but there is something that gets you and you can’t look away. When looking at a work of art for the first time, don’t listen to anyone, don’t talk to anyone. Just look at it. Does it communicate? This could mean anything, maybe the lack of interaction among the figures is the alienation of the individual amongst the masses; or maybe you just like the color (or lack thereof). Anyway, after you figure out that you like the work (or don’t) figure out why. Maybe it’s too simple, naïve or just boring. That’s justified! You don’t have to like it, but don’t be ashamed (also don’t go off on a hate-rant). Just take the extra five minutes  (or more) to really think about the work and why or why not it appeals to you.

The great work of art should stand the test of time. Context should not be divorced from the work, but neither should it be the core. A great work is more than context. A work is great if it supersedes the context for all times, the work is completely evident; you don’t have to read a textbook to “get” it. A great work is subjective, you feel it personally, but it is also objective- it reveals and focuses a personal truth as well as a universal truth.


Cy Twombly: Sculpture Selections, 1948-1995- A Review

Recently I went over to the Art Institute of Chicago and was blown away by what they had to offer. In addition to the spectacular permanent collection, they have numerous special and ongoing exhibitions, one of which is Cy Twombly: Sculpture Selections, 1948-1995.

Edwin Parker “Cy” Twombly, Jr. (American, 1928-July 5, 2011) is mostly known as a painter, he is associated with the Neo-dadaism and hung out with titans like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. In 1957, Twombly set up his studio in Rome. His recent death has propelled him onto the contemporary radar, but for most of his career Twombly was largely ignored in the United States (not the case in Europe, where he was quite successful).

Twombly’s  paintings are grandiose in scale, however, they feature scribble markings that are reminiscent of calligraphy and graffiti, the expressive mark of a signature on expansively empty canvas fields.

 

 

Above: Cy Twombly, The First Part of the Return from Parnassus, 1961. Oil paint, lead paint, wax crayon, colored pencil on canvas. 94 3/4 x 118 3/8 in. Photo courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago.

According the artist,“Each line is now the actual experience with its own innate history.It does not illustrate- it is the sensation of its own realization.” Twombly’s works are steeped in the Classical past of Rome and ancient Greece, mythologies and epic poetry.

So what about the sculpture?

As I walked into the exhibition room it was like walking into a sacred temple. Only the floor creaking broke the silence, well that and the security guard warning people to back off the sculptures. Each of the seven sculptures are made of rough wood and found materials, coated in plaster and painted white. Alternating stolid horizontal blocks with triumphant verticality the sculpture works echo the peaks and long strokes of script.

What’s great about these works is that you can’t tell what is from 1948 and what’s from 1995; the works are timeless, monumental like classical marble sculpture. They are evocative of things from life, but distinctly not. They are assemblages of found material, such as the three doorknobs protruding from a block, clustered together like a face. The works are personal talisman, many inscribed with the names of places or verses of poetry, simultaneously solemn and playful.

Above: Photo of the exhibition, courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

I overheard a guide lecturing a group of uninterested students say that normally these sculptures would have been cast in bronze, however the Art Institute was lucky enough have the plaster versions. I prefer these, although they are starkly white, the roughness of the found materials comes through the plaster, creating irresistible texture and shadow across its surface.

Favorite: One of the works resembles a stepped ziggurat-like structure. An enormous base connected to the piece sets the work at table-level, like a model building. Under the plaster and paint peaks hints of blue and red, graffiti-esque. Where the imagined “entrance” would be, a long nail pierces the flat rectangular shape. Paint drips cascade from this puncture, down along the base to the floor.

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to view this exhibit, unfortunately it was largely empty on my visit- I hope this is not the norm and that visitors take the time to explore these rare sculptures. What may be a problem for Twombly’s sculpture exhibit is its proximity to the Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad, 1941-1945, which is the highlight at the museum right now. Cy Twombly: Sculpture Selections is ongoing so there doesn’t seem to be a set end date (yay!).

Also at the Art Institute of Chicago (some of which will be reviewed in later posts)

Jitish Kallat: Public Notice 3 (Sept. 11, 2010- Sept. 11, 2011)

Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad, 1941-1945 (July 31- Oct. 23, 2011)

Avant-Garde Art in Everyday Life (June 11- Oct.9, 2011)

Belligerent Encounters: Graphic Chronicles of War and Revolution, 1500-1945 (July 31- Oct. 23, 2011)

Chagall’s America Windows (return of, that is…)

And for a full listing of exhibitions (there’s a ton) click here.

You can also read a bunch more about Cy Twombly by clicking here.

 


Art & Headlines

Hurricane Irene recently struck the East Coast of the United States, devastating countless residents. In dedication to all my friends and family in Richmond, Va. that have yet to regain power; to those that have been flooded or damaged by debris, a salute! This was one hurricane I happened to miss.

J.M.W. Turner, Shade and Darkness- the Evening of the Deluge, 1843, oil on canvas


Art & Headlines

The art: Asger Jorn, Paris by Night, 1959

The news: “Police Scramble to Fight Flash-mob Mayhem,” Ashley Fantz, CNN

In what could be a scene from a dystopian futuristic film like Mad Max flash-mobs are erupting all over the world. The police seem to be powerless to control the mobs due to lack of technological expertise. Young people are organizing via social networking sites in order to meet up, loot, and/or assault pedestrians .These flash-mobs are symptomatic of an underlying sense of powerlessness endemic to youth today. The only way to feel power is to undermine capitalism’s societal norm with the anonymity provided by mob behavior. How else can young people attract national attention? It seems that the youth cannot but be negatively portrayed in the media and this is the result. These acts are subversive outcries in the battle of disparity waging everywhere.

Asger Jorn’s ( Danish, 1914-1973) Paris by Night, is a Detournement that subverts the capitalistic art object by defacing the type of cliche painting commonly sold to tourists on the streets of Paris. Jorn and the Situationists were using art as a means of rebellion from the invasion of American-style Capitalism in the Post-war period. This work depicts a kind of graffiti scrawl over the painting in shapes that resemble a mushroom cloud in the upper left over the city of Paris and a chaotic overflow of smoke in the foreground. The figure leisurely watches Paris burn from the safety of his balcony even as it sneaks up behind him. We cannot look at the collapsing of the world markets without seeing how it is affecting us right now. One of those ways is how youth has come to feel powerless as jobs become scarcer, corporations get tax payer bail outs, school seems pointless as higher education is skyrocketing in cost without concrete benefits-  the future is bleak.